Chianti Rùfina DOCG or ‘Chianti from Rùfina‘ is a red wine from a small area within the province of Florence (Firenze) in Tuscany, in the north eastern part of the Chianti DOCG zone, 12.5 miles (20km) north-east of the Italian city of Florence (‘Firenze’) and thus north too of the Chianti Classico DOCG. The Chianti Rufina DOCG zone is the smallest in extent of the various denominations within the wider red wine-only Chianti DOCG, but it is also the most ancient, inasmuch as its borders were defined in 1716 by the decree of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici. Chianti Rùfina ranks qualitatively with or even above Chianti Montespertoli DOCG as its most renowned. Rùfina produces some of Italy’s longest-lived Sangiovese wines. Despite this and as Ian d’Agata pointed out to me ‘Chianti Rùfina DOCG is somewhat under the Tuscan radar because it did not have the benefit of 20-30 noble families making notable wines for 40-odd years.’
Unlike the other Chianti DOCGs and Chianti Classico DOCG it is deep inland in the foothills of the Apennine mountains that divide Tuscany from Emilia Romagna, almost up to the Mugello valley. Traditionally its wines were sold to the ‘mescite‘ (bars serving wine) and ‘trattorie‘ of Florence. Sweet wines are bottled under the Vin Santo del Chianti Rùfina DOC.
Site-specific Sangiovese: A project launched in 2020 aimed at identifying each producer’s finest Sangiovese vineyard, with dedicated single-vineyard labels for the wines which would serve as ambassadors of the highest expressions of Rùfina.
1716 Cosimo III de’Medici: Chianti Rùfina ‘was first identified as an area of superior production in Cosimo III de’Medici’s granducal edict of 1716, which named the zone Pomino after the famous estate of the Albizi family (David Gleave & Daniel Thomases: 2006, p.163). Pomino is now a DOC in its own right.
Geography: The delimited Rùfina zone runs along the summit of Mount Senario from Dicomano (in the northeast), Londa, Rùfina (between Dicomano and Pontassieve), Pelago (to the south-east) and Pontassieve (in the south-west). These all lie on the hills east of Florence, in three valleys.
The Pelago area is said to be a notably warm terroir (Selvapiana, Frescobaldi).
Size: 12,483ha of land of which around 1,500ha are registered to produce Chianti Rufina DOCG (D’Agata: 2019, p.284). | 2016 Federico Giuntini of Fattoria Selvapiana told me in 2016 that Rùfina had around 20 producers making around 4% of the total output for Chianti DOCG, and that despite its small size, it is the third most productive area in Chianti (after Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG).
Terroir: The region stretches along the summit of Monte Senario from Dicomano in the north-east to Pontassieve in the southwest (D’Agata, 2019, p.284). “Rùfina differs from the other Chianti DOCG regions and from Chianti Classico itself by being closer to the Apennine mountain ridge, the chain of mountains that forms central Italy’s spine, dividing Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna. The mountains and the presence of the Sieve river and its merging with the larger Arno river combine to moderate summer heat, creating relatively low mean temperatures and noticeable diurnal temperature differences allied to humidity at both dawn and dusk. This slows ripening (ripening here lags behind Chianti Classico) and provides the potential for wines whose poise is due to combination of natural freshness (notable acidity levels), smoothness (elegant tannins), aroma (from a luminous landscape) and acidity for longevity,” writes Monty Waldin.
See also the Pomino DOC, in the hamlet of Pomino, a higher area which Rùfina almost totally surrounds but is considered a separate area altogether (D’Agata: 2019, p.284).
Andrea Zanfei of Fattoria Cerreto Libri is quoted by Louis Dressner as saying ‘because there are so few producers in Rùfina (around 20), DOC regulations are less exposed to the flexibility of Chianti Classico, and the region has remained more rooted in tradition.’
Rùfina is probably the only Chianti sub-zone (‘sottozona’), except for Chianti Classico, which deserves its DOCG classification. One reason is it has no denomination of greater prestige within its boundaries, as for example does Chianti Colli Senesi with Brunello di Montalcino,’ (Nicolas Belfrage: 2003, p.96-7).
Altitude: Ian D’Agata (2019, p.284) points out that although the region describes itself as ‘the highest of all Chiantis’ (‘il più alto fra I Chianti’) average altitudes are roughly 200-500 metres (656-1,640 feet) above sea level, which is ‘not that high’. However, some Rufina vineyards are in mountainous environments at up to 700 metres (2,296 feet) above sea level, near Dicomano in northern Rufina, for example, so the ‘the highest of all Chiantis’ slogan is accurate.
Soils: Ian D’Agata (2019, p.284) cites limestone (eg. in the area extending south to Dicomano), sand, galestro-alberese, marl, marly clays (more typical of the south, water retentive yellow-brown alkaline soils hence vigorous vines), marly silt () and chaotic soils (west of Pontassieve and Tigliano, very varied in composition), and differentiated soils (Molino del Piano and Santa Brigida.
Wine style: ‘Wine lovers should not forget about Chianti Rufina. For the most part a high-altitude, cool-climate viticultural area, its Chiantis are some of the most perfumed, flinty and refined of all,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014). Federico Giuntini of Fattoria Selvapiana told me in 2016 that ‘Rùfina as a Chianti zone is known for making very aromatic, elegant wines. This has to do with where we are. We are in a valley and close to the [Apennine] mountains, we have very dramatic temperatures between night and day, so the grapes ripen very slowly. They keep all their freshness, that’s why the wines are so aromatic, so floral, with open fruit, ripe fruit, but not too ripe. Always on the fresh side.’
Vintages: 2020 ‘Well-balanced overall, in line with the best Rùfina vintages.’
Certified organic, Biodynamic practices: Voltumna.
Certified organic: Borgo Macereto (Dicomano). | Fattoria I Veroni (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Lavacchio (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Selvapiana (Pontassieve). | Frascole (Dicomano). | Villa di Vetrice (Pontassieve).
No certification: Cantine Fratelli Bellini (Pontassieve). | Castello del Trebbio (Pontassieve). | Castello di Nipozzano (Pelago). | Colognole (Rùfina). | Fattoria di Basciano (Rùfina). | Fattoria di Grignano (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Il lago (Dicomano). | Grati (). | Le Coste di Giuliano Grati (). | Marchesi Frescobaldi (Florence). | Marchesi Gondi (Pontassieve). | Podere Il Pozzo (Pontassieve). | Poggio Gualtieri – see Fattoria di Grignano. | Tenuta Bossi – see Marchesi Gondi. | Travignoli (Pelago).
Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy (Mitchell Beazley, London, 1990).
David Gleave, The Wines of Italy (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Daniel Thomases and David Gleave MW, Oxford Companion to Wine 3rd edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019), p.284-286.
Dr Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous
Louis Dressner, ‘Chianti Rufina from Cerreto Libri,’.
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).
Oz Clarke 2015, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p.85.